Note: This is part 2 of my thoughts on the season. Part 1 is here.
1. Shorten the Dry Spells
If we can shorten the in-game dry spells from 5-8 minutes at a clip to 3-4 minutes each, we can win more games. Just playing more consistently for 40 minutes, we would have beaten Auburn, and we would have taken UT (home), Nevada (road), UK (road) and Oregon State (road) to the wire.
One more non-conference win and 2 more SEC wins, and this team would have finished with a record of 18-12 (7-9). More consistent play within games gets us to that point.
Dave Bliss and Steve Newman are good kids and hard workers, but they are limited athletically in what they can do. I don't think that John Wooden could get much more out of them than Felton is getting. We've got to get Kendrick Johnson and Woodbury healthy. Hopefully, their games can mature enough to get the primary minutes at the C and PF spots. With those guys healthy and adding more athleticism to the roster, we can shore up the wins reference in Item #1. Additionally, if those two really come along and improve as much as Idrissi did in his Soph year, we can squeeze out maybe one more SEC win. That would get us to 8-8 and near the NCAA bubble.
[Photo: Woodbury exceeded expectations this year]
3. Sign a Juco Big Man for next season
We need to have Mitch and Murray send in Blake from downtown to give our coaches a recruiting pep talk. We need more Cadillacs and fewer steak knives. We need a Juco big man who goes around 6'8" and 240 lbs. A guy that can rebound and defend. We need a Lorenzo Hall or Anthony Evans. We're recruiting Takais Brown, and he may fit the profile of what we need. Who knows what our chances are.
Get them to sign on the line which is dotted.
4. Schedule tougher.
Next year, we will play two fewer games b/c we aren't eligible (per ncaa rules) to play back to back pre-season tourneys. That's two fewer store bought wins vs. RPI clunkers like EKU and Fordam. Even at 8-8 non-conference next year, we won't go to the big dance without a dramatically upgraded schedule.
According to Ken Pomeroy's RPI site, the Dawgs had the 230th ranked non-conference strength of schedule in the country in 2006. In 2005, it was ranked 169th...so despite Felton's comments to the contrary on the radio last week, he actually scheduled WEAKER statistically this year vs. last despite better players. Although, in fairness to Felton, I should point out that had GT been as good as normal the SOS would've been markedly higher.
We have to schedule tougher next year. We don't have to schedule Duke, but we need to get some of the Savannah State, Fordham, Eastern Kentucky, Old Dominions and FAMUs off the schedule in favor of more mid-tier major conference teams like Clemson and GT.
Next year is going to be huge for Felton. If he can't get us to the NCAA Tourney in Year 4, then we have to seriously question if he's the right man for the job. That's just being brutally honest. All of the players will be his signees.
Felton and Gaines
People can say "Look at the Mess he inherited from Harrick." That's true.
BUT, you have to put things in relative terms. The team that Harrick took over in his first year went 10-20, but they made the NCAA in his second year as an 8 seed.
This 2006 team in Felton's third year is not worse than Harrick's first year team that went 10-20. And frankly, this team isn't that much less talented than Tubby's second team that got a #3 seed in the tourney. The biggest talent difference between those two teams is Lorenzo Hall vs. Dave Bliss. Otherwise, they are very similar.
I hope Felton gets it turned around.
Harsh reality says we will be opening a $30 million practice facility in two years. The weak facilities and poor administrative support excuses will be VERY tough to swallow once that building opens. And that's not a comment aimed a just Felton. It is aimed at every coach, administrator AND fan surrounding the UGA program.
When we make that sort of investment, it'll FINALLY be time to stop whining and end the martyr-like mentality that surrounds Georgia Hoops. The only thing stopping us from winning once that sucker opens is having a coach that can fill it with great players.
This state has too many hoops prospects, the SEC is too good a conference, and that facility is going to be too nice for us to continue to get so little in the way of consistent results from our hoops program.
We can improve this program. It can be more. Felton can be the guy that gets us there. Whatever we do, we have to change this dysfunctional relationship between UGA Basketball and its fans that has existed for the entirety of our history.
For another take on next year, check out H.I. McDunnough's post on the Rivals message board.
This is what we all want to see more often.